A speed-obsessed culture at Amazon, the e-commerce giant that emphasizes rapid shipping to customers, is causing workers at a New York distribution center to suffer pain and injuries more often than average warehouse employees, according to a new report from a union-affiliated group.
The report, titled Time Off Task: Pressure, Pain, and Productivity at Amazon, was released to coincide with the anniversary of a Staten Island warehouse's opening and examined the experiences of 145 employees.
Eighty percent of survey participants said they felt pressured to work harder, roughly two-thirds said they suffered physical pain while performing their duties and 42 percent said the pain continued even when they were off. A number said they were penalized for any "time off task" during the day, a term that referred to any breaks other than the legally required 30 minutes for lunch.
"Amazon, which has been criticized for its company culture in other cities, is running its Staten Island facility without regard for workers’ need to be treated as people, not robots," report co-author Charlene Obernauer, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
The accounts are similar to complaints made by Amazon workers seeking to form labor unions in other parts of the country, a resemblance not lost on the Seattle-based company, which says it offers a high-quality work environment.
The New York report is a "self-serving" document produced by a union-led organization rather than a government agency and reflects a survey of less than 3 percent of the Staten Island workforce, an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business. The company has 250,000 hourly employees, including more than 4,500 full-time workers in Staten Island.
According to The New York Post, the labor groups involved in the report also helped derail Amazon’s plan to put part of a second headquarters in New York, which would have created 25,000 jobs.
The authors of the occupational safety report made no effort to hide their pro-union sentiments. "Amazon has a troubled record of worker safety and health violations in the United States" that could be improved with a unionized workforce, slower operations and a comprehensive ergonomics program, they wrote.
Currently, Staten Island workers who spend too much time on activities other than assigned tasks "may be disciplined and are ultimately subject to termination for poor performance," the group said.
The system results in a culture that prioritizes productivity and economic goals over human needs, according to the report.
Health professionals are calling the documented pain "eye-opening."
Employees are “forced to work at dangerous speeds to ensure the packages Americans order arrive quickly,” Dr. David Michaels, former head of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and currently a professor at George Washington University's School of Public Health, said in the group's statement.